With more state budget cuts looming, and a school board worried about how it will pay for the programs it must offer students, it seems unthinkable that a new, optional program would see the light of day.
But the county's schools will get to implement a new program to identify gifted and talented students this year, thanks to a $69,000 federal grant.
"We searched literature for material of higher level thinking for the program," said Dennis Younger, director of curriculum for county schools. "This program will not only identify gifted students but it teaches how to elicit types of behavior that may lead students into gifted classes. The behaviors do not have to be present to begin with."
Kindergarten and first-grade students in eight elementary schools will be among the first to try the program. The schools are: Linthicum, Quarterfield, Jones Station, Arnold, Severn, Jessup, Rolling Knolls, and Germantown Elementary schools.
Students will spend half their time being taught by a classroom teacher and the remainder of their time being taught by specialists in the field of gifted and talented students, Mr. Younger said. Kindergarten and first grade students will have 15 lessons in which their teachers will try and draw out behaviors that may lead them to gifted and talented classes.
Teachers will have a list of 20 indicators to look for in their students in order to identify behaviors in advance of the students'peers. A child does not have to display all 20 characteristics in order to be identified as gifted.
Some of the behavioral indicators include:
* Learning Academics: demonstrates an interest in and/or knowledge of the reading process such as by reading books one or two years in advance of his or her peers.
* Creative/Productive Thinking: displays conversational skills by making fluent use of advanced vocabulary.
* Visual and Performing Arts: expresses feelings, attitudes, and ideas in a creative and original manner using art, music, dance or drama by choosing visual performing arts to communicate ideas or feelings.
* Motivation/Adaptability: demonstrates self confidence with adults and classmates in the learning environment by showing assertiveness with adults and other children.
At the end of the school year, it is expected students will be placed in a "talent pool" which will make identifying them for future gifted and talented classes easier.
Mr. Younger said by working to draw out gifted and talented behavior the program allows for a "cultural-free identification" process. The traditional methods of identifying gifted and talented students, often by standardized test scores often overlooked many students, especially minority students who are not well represented in gifted and talented classes.
"A number of our students were not identified by standardized tests," Mr. Younger said. "In fact, only one student was identified from a standardized test."
The program also provides the opportunity to identify and work with students at an earlier age.
"When we have students who have high abilities, we want to make sure we identify them as early as possible," said Mr. Younger.